Wednesday, August 23, 2006

EETimes.com - Euro currency now has embedded RFID chips

EETimes.com - Euro bank notes to embed RFID chips by 2005:

"SAN MATEO, Calif. — The European Central Bank is working with technology partners on a hush-hush project to embed radio frequency identification tags into the very fibers of euro bank notes by 2005, EE Times has learned. Intended to foil counterfeiters, the project is developing as Europe prepares for a massive changeover to the euro, and would create an instant mass market for RFID chips, which have long sought profitable application.

The banking community and chip suppliers say the integration of an RFID antenna and chip on a bank note is technically possible, but no bank notes in the world today employ such a technology. Critics say it's unclear if the technology can be implemented at a cost that can justify the effort, and question whether it is robust enough to survive the rough-and-tumble life span of paper money.

A spokesman for the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany confirmed the existence of a project, but was careful not to comment on its technologies. At least two European semiconductor makers contacted by EE Times, Philips Semiconductors and Infineon Technologies, acknowledged their awareness of the ECB project but said they are under strict nondisclosure agreements."

[...]

In theory, an RFID tag's ability to read and write information to a bank note could make it very difficult, for example, for kidnappers to ask for "unmarked" bills. Further, a tag would give governments and law enforcement agencies a means to literally "follow the money" in illegal transactions.

"The RFID allows money to carry its own history," by recording information about where it has been, said Paul Saffo, director of Institute for the Future (Menlo Park, Calif.).

The embedding of an RFID tag on a bank note is "a fundamental departure" from the conventional security measures applied to currency, Saffo said. "Most currency security today is based on a false premise that people would look at the money to see if it is counterfeit," he said. But "nobody does that. The RFID chip is an important advance because it no longer depends on humans" to spot funny money.

RFID basics

The basic technology building blocks for RFID on bank notes are similar to those required for today's smart labels or contactless cards. They require a contactless data link that can automatically collect information about a product, place, time or transaction. Smart labels produced by companies such as Philips Semiconductors, Infineon, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments are already used in such applications as smart airline luggage tags, library books and for supply chain management of various products.

"Two minimum elements you need for RFID are a chip and an antenna," according to Gordon Kenneth Andrew Oswald, associate director at Arthur D. Little Inc., a technology consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass. When a bank note passes through reader equipment, the antenna on the note collects energy and converts it to electric energy to activates the chip, he said.

The antenna then "provides a communication path between a chip on the bank note and the rest of the world," said Tres Wiley, emerging markets strategy manager for RFID Systems at TI. For its part, the chip "is a dedicated processor to handle protocols, to carry out data encoding to send and receive data and address memory" embedded on the chip.

I was a little worried by this but then I remembered that my friend Andy assured me that the US will never, ever put RFID chips in OUR money, and that even if they did it would be too complex to track all our money. I wonder why the EU is wasting so much money with these RFID chips in their currency if they won't be able to track all that data? I mean, that would be like a search engine trying to search every single word of every single website on the interent and give you a result in less than a second! Simply impossible using today's technology!

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